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- Thursday, April 25, 2013 - From Print Edition


ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan chapter of al-Qaeda has suffered a major setback with the death of Abu Ubaidah Abdullah Al Adam, the intelligence and internal security chief of the terrorist group who has been killed in drone attack in North Waziristan.


The killing of yet another high-profile al-Qaeda leader shows that the Waziristan region continues to be a hotbed of the wanted al-Qaeda radicals, more than 11 years after the 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent beginning of the US-led war against terror. Even though al-Qaeda has not yet issued an official martyrdom statement about the death of Abu Ubaidah Al Adam, there are credible reports in the Western media to suggest that he was killed in an April 17 US drone strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan Agency. Two close aides of al-Qaeda’s intelligence chief - Al Wathiq Billah and Sanafi Al Nasr – have tweeted that Abu Ubaida has been killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan.


A Palestinian national who was in fact raised in Saudi Arabia, Abu Ubaidah Al Adam had replaced Mohammad Khalil Hasan Al Hakaymah, better known in jehadi circles as Abu Jehad Al Misri, the former intelligence chief of the terrorist group who was killed in a US drone strike on November 1, 2008 in North Waziristan. The United States had offered a one-million-dollar bounty for the killing or arrest of Abu Jehad Al Misri who had appeared in an anti-Western video introduced by al-Qaeda leader Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri. Abu Ubaidah’s death is considered by the American intelligence community to be a major success in the ongoing war against terrorism because he had served under Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks and was linked to some of al-Qaeda’s most notorious leaders.


Abu Ubaidah’s importance in the al-Qaeda network can be gauged from the fact that he had served under Abu Zubaydah, the former chief operational commander of the terror group in Pakistan who was captured from Mardan in 2002 and deported to the United States. He had traveled with Abu Zubaydah to Pakistan following the overthrow of the Taliban after the American invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. He had also served people like Abu Hamza Rabia, the former external operations chief of al-Qaeda who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2005 and Atiyah Abdul Rahman, who too was droned to death in Pakistan 2011). In an article, Abu Ubaida had claimed having served Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former al-Qaeda ameer in Iraq, long before he opened a front against the US in Iraq. Abu Ubaida wrote in ‘Vanguards of Khorasan’, which is al-Qaeda’s official magazine intended for internal use, that he had befriended Abu Zarqawi at an al-Qaeda training camp in Jalalabad well before the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.


Ubaidah also claimed having hosted Dr Ayman al Zawahiri at his home in Afghanistan sometime in the 1990s. His last known public statement was released in February 2013, saying that al Qaeda is fighting primarily an intelligence security war. “Its victor is who scores strategic hits against the vital key structures of the other party. The new comers in the jehadi folds must maintain secrecy and tell no one of their intent; ensure that they have proper security when entering new battlefields; they must rely on well-established smuggling routes to enter new countries but remember that smugglers often work with government forces; and avoid communications with relatives while in countries where waging jihad or while in neighboring countries.


The primary target of the US drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan remains the external operations network of al-Qaeda. However, there are still many key al-Qaeda leaders who are on the hit list of the CIA but have survived the drone attacks so far. Some of them include al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, the ameer of Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda’s chief operational commander for Pakistan, Commander Saif Al Adal, the operational commander of the Haqqani network, Commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, al-Qaeda’s official spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghath, the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda, Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, al-Qaeda’s chief operational commander in Afghanistan who is allegedly operating from Waziristan and many others.


The CIA hit list carries the names of six key al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked jehadi leaders belonging to Pakistan who are considered common to be enemies by Washington and Islamabad. They include TTP ameer Commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, his second-in-command Commander Waliur Rehman, Mullah Fazlullah, Hafiz Gul Buhadar, Matiur Rehman and Ehsanullah Ehsan.


The US drone campaign, which was actually launched by the Bush administration and is controlled by the CIA’s Special Activities Division, has been intensified substantially in Pakistan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan under the Obama administration which claims having killed several top al-Qaeda leaders in Waziristan belt.


The drone attacks in the tribal areas are one of the most contentious issues affecting the Pak-US ties since long. Pakistan seeks an end to the drone attacks as part of the new terms of engagement with the US, terming the same as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty that is resulting in deaths of innocent civilians.


Even though the international media has often claimed that the drone drive is being aided by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Islamabad criticizes the deadly campaign, saying that the US has failed to keep track of the civilian casualties in the drone attacks.